Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

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Christine Huang
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Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#1 Post by Christine Huang » August 13th, 2019, 10:41 am

We're headed to the region for a week in November. What are your favorite places to visit and eat? What should I book now and where can we wander?

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Dennis Atick
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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#2 Post by Dennis Atick » August 13th, 2019, 12:56 pm

Nice! Planning to do a nearly identical itinerary late Spring.
Will be following this thread!
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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#3 Post by brigcampbell » August 13th, 2019, 4:18 pm

Christine Huang wrote:
August 13th, 2019, 10:41 am
We're headed to the region for a week in November. What are your favorite places to visit and eat? What should I book now and where can we wander?
Probably best to start with a search in the travel forum as there are numerous helpful threads for those places.

great times ahead!

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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#4 Post by Christine Huang » August 13th, 2019, 5:49 pm

brigcampbell wrote:
August 13th, 2019, 4:18 pm
Christine Huang wrote:
August 13th, 2019, 10:41 am
We're headed to the region for a week in November. What are your favorite places to visit and eat? What should I book now and where can we wander?
Probably best to start with a search in the travel forum as there are numerous helpful threads for those places.

great times ahead!
Hi. I did. A lot of the recommendations are from 2+ years ago and are for places with kids. We’re ditching the kids [wink.gif] for this trip. I was wondering if there were some more recent recommendations people are willing to share.
flirtysmile

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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#5 Post by David K o l i n » August 13th, 2019, 7:48 pm

We were with the kids this summer, so no gastronomic palaces. We did have a wonderful lunch at Mirador de Ulia accompanied by a marvelous view of San Sebastián from the hill it is located on. Definitely lunch and definitely a window.

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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#6 Post by Barry L i p t o n » August 13th, 2019, 7:50 pm

Deleted by op.

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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#7 Post by Christine Huang » August 13th, 2019, 8:07 pm

David K o l i n wrote:
August 13th, 2019, 7:48 pm
We were with the kids this summer, so no gastronomic palaces. We did have a wonderful lunch at Mirador de Ulia accompanied by a marvelous view of San Sebastián from the hill it is located on. Definitely lunch and definitely a window.
Thanks David!

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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#8 Post by Mark Cochard » August 15th, 2019, 11:10 am

Check out this guide, There are also guides for Bilbao and San Sebastian
http://www.maribelsguides.com/mg_larioja.pdf
https://www.maribelsguides.com/city-and ... al-guides/

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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#9 Post by Barry L i p t o n » August 15th, 2019, 4:42 pm

Hi Christine

The dedicated San Sebastián thread has a recent detailed discussion of some of the 3*s, nothing about kids.

I was a little less enamored with Mirador del Ullia. Good to be sure, but while my app was stunning (tear peas and scallops), my main was foam over substance.

Casa Urola was a great traditional meal. The percebes weren’t tops but everything else was, including a sole that I preferred to the turbot from Elkano’s chef that I had at a food award dinner (of course might have been better at the restaurant).

For wine, Rekondo is stunning, and unlike other of the worlds top lists, lots a values there. Muga Prado Enea 1985 was fabulous and only a tad over 100 euros. Other bargains in the more premium price ranges as well. Food was straightforward but good.

I had to take a break, so couldn’t make my dinner at Kokotxa or lunch at Ibai, but I was sad to miss them. I’ve heard fabulous things about them so I’ll be going back!
Last edited by Barry L i p t o n on August 16th, 2019, 1:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#10 Post by Sherri S h a p i r o » August 16th, 2019, 12:08 pm

I spent a weekend in Rioja last fall - I posted in an existing thread (about visiting Rioja) about the wineries we visited.

viewtopic.php?f=9&t=137810&hilit=rioja

We also did a pintxos crawl in Logrono, where we stayed.

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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#11 Post by Joe Dulworth » August 16th, 2019, 12:39 pm

I just got back mid-July from a two week trip to Rioja, San Sebastian, Priorat and Barcelona. Limiting it to Rioja and San Sebastian:

Hotels
San Sebastian - 1) Hotel Maria Cristina or 2) Hotel Londres y Inglaterra
Logrono - Hotel Calle Mayor

Restaurants
San Sebastian - La Muralla, Pizzeria La Mina, Bar Iturrioz, La Espiga, Bar Antonio, Biarritz.
Logrono - Tapas Crawl (two areas), Gastronomica at Riscal, Asador Jose Mari (while out tasting).

I have tons of other recommendations but they were only suggestions so we could pick and choose last minute. Let me know if you want to see those which I can cut and paste easily. Also if you have any questions on what I posted that I did do in person.

NOTE:

Hotel Calle Mayor we got a MAYOR DELUXE room which would be plenty of room for the entire family. Two balconies. Walk in shower. Separate toilet with bidet. Etc... I visited other rooms and ours was easily the largest of the group. Near the river and right between the old and new tapas crawl areas.

Hotel Maria Cristina is the nicest place to stay in San Sebastian but it is a bit pricey. We stayed at Hotel Londres y Inglaterra (friends stayed at Maria Cristina) and I upgraded to a Junior Suite with Sea View and I got two room suite with private bedroom, fully updated large bath, good sized living room (we had 12 in there at one time watching world cup on TV while drinking wine), office nook and two balconies with sweeping views of the beach and water. All for roughly one third of the price the Maria Cristina. Old World charm with updates.
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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#12 Post by John Osburn » August 16th, 2019, 1:09 pm

Visited SS in May for 5 days, did almost exclusively pintxos. We enjoyed the below especially, with San Telmo and La Vina being pretty much outstanding across the board.

Bar Nestor - tortilla (get on the list); large grilled steak with tomatoes and peppers
Atari/Sirimiri – cocktails; octopus; jamon; always hopping
La Cuchara de San Telmo – lots of good things - shellfish (razor clams esp.); kokotxas; foie
Casa Urola - mushroom and cheese tart
Hidalgo 56 – lots of good things, volcan de morcilla; foie
La Vina - torta de queso; cream cheese cone with anchovy; egg dishes
Txepetxa - anchovies
A Fuego Negro – Kobe burger; foie
Café Sport – foie

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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#13 Post by Barry L i p t o n » August 16th, 2019, 1:50 pm

Just to add Casa Urola is both a great tapas place (downstairs) and a great restaurant (upstairs). If you do a pintxos crawl, choose your timing carefully. The popular places were three deep at the bar during Saturday afternoon and almost as bad prime dining time on a Tuesday (both in May). It put me off the experience even though the tapas were great.

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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#14 Post by Christine Huang » September 12th, 2019, 6:56 am

Thanks everyone! I'e been crazy busy, so haven't had a chance to reserve until now - we'll see what we can get. At the very least, Hotel Maria Cristina will be our home base for the week.

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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#15 Post by Mike Cohen » September 12th, 2019, 8:44 am

Christine Huang wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 6:56 am
Thanks everyone! I'e been crazy busy, so haven't had a chance to reserve until now - we'll see what we can get. At the very least, Hotel Maria Cristina will be our home base for the week.
Hi Christine,

We just got back from Spain, including 4 days in Barcelona, 1/2 day in Bilbao, and 4 days in San Sebastian. Couple of thoughts.

First, we walked past the Maria Christina multiple times. San Sebastian is a small easily walkable city. It looks gorgeous. If I were going back again, I'd still choose to stay where we did as I think the location is much better. We stayed at a new hotel called Lasala Plaza in San Sebastian that was absolutely fantastic. Right on the corner of the beach and the old town. Our room was huge and very well appointed. My wife and I looked at each other and said maybe we should sell our house and move in here. Roof deck with pool and amazing views of the beach/marina were just icing on the cake. Great breakfast too. I believe we stayed in room 309 which had a view of the plaza rather than the beach, but man was the room great.

We were with my family of four, my in-laws, and my parents so it wasn't a michelin 3 star kind of trip. But we did hit a lot of the places mentioned above. One place I'm surprised not to see mentioned is Ganbara which I thought was amazing. We actually went twice for lunch. Make sure to get the mushrooms.

As a side note, you should be dieting for weeks before you go, because it is all about the food and wine. I was stuffing my face all day.

Not sure if you're into this, but there is a lot of paddleboarding going on in the protected harbor. There are multiple shops to rent equipment. Also, you can take surfing lessons at the surf beach down the street. We used the Pukas surf shop for lessons.

Bilbao - The Guggenheim is fantastic and is worth a half a day. I didn't find that we needed to spend any more time there. The old city of Bilbao was cool, but the San Sebastian version was ten times more fun.

Enjoy.

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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#16 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum » September 12th, 2019, 11:40 pm

Mike Cohen wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 8:44 am
One place I'm surprised not to see mentioned is Ganbara which I thought was amazing. We actually went twice for lunch. Make sure to get the mushrooms.
Ganbara is the best. It is family owned and run, and the son who is now in charge is fanatical about food, and about getting the highest quality products for the restaurant. Many of the local restaurants, I'm told, get all their seafood frozen, and much of it isn't local at all. That doesn't mean it can't be delicious, it certainly can. But Ganbara is as good as it is for a reason - everything from the daily seafood to the vegetables to the iberico they use for sandwiches is carefully chosen. There's a downstairs seated area in addition to the bar upstairs, which can be nice if you want to have a little space and quiet. There's also a pretty decent stash of wine available. Honestly, if you want to do the traditional chuleton steak, I'd do it at Ganbara.

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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#17 Post by John Draper » October 10th, 2019, 4:07 pm

Freshly back from San Sebastian and Madrid. As others note, San Sebastian is stunning. We stayed at the Maria Cristina, service was top notch and, as an interesting aside, the 67th iteration of the San Sebastian Film Festival was kicking off so the lobby was chock full of klieg lights, microphones, cameras, etc. Definitely made for an amusing arrival and my wife was constantly pointing out celebs (Donald Sutherland, Eva Green, and others) I'm terrible and honestly nonplussed by that scene so I wouldn't have known Eva Green from Jane Doe but it added a little panache to the trip with crowds surrounding the hotel every evening to catch glimpses of their favorite actors/actresses.

Food was sublime, you really have to work hard to find a bad meal in this town. Highlights included the mushrooms w/ egg yolk at Ganbarra, all things pig at Cuchara de San Telmo, very imaginative riffs on tapas classics at Atari. Did one 3* and journeyed up the hill to Akelarre where my wife had their 'Aranori' menu and I tried the 'classics'. presentation and service were stellar, I honestly enjoyed the Aaranori a little better than the Classics with standouts being 'leaves and foie in the rain' and 'risotto like squid'

Drove to Bilbao to see the Guggenheim, 2nd level was closed for a private viewing but still worth the half day jaunt.

Madrid was a 180 to SS in terms of bustle, energy and traffic with a capital T. Much faster to walk if traveling a mile or so as opposed to sitting in a gridlocked cab. Again, if you have a bad meal here it's on you, minimal exploration and observation will yield gastronomic delights in every corner of this city.

Street XO is worth arriving early for the queue, I was there about 45minutes prior to opening and was in the first seating for lunch; folks that showed up 20-30 minutes prior to opening were relegated to the next floor of Cortes Ingles, CRAZY lines. Mushrooms at Cisne Azul were outstanding, Celso y Manolo and Angelita were great spots close to our hotel; the tomato dish at Angelita was beautiful. La Sala des Despiece also delivered, 7 course tasting menu at lunch for something ridiculous like 45euros. Quintin and Raquetista for small plates, especially the chicharrones at Raquetista. La Castela for tapas out front and old school Spanish classics at the restaurant in back. Taberna Laredo for their omelet. I also discovered Nordes Gin, not normally a gin guy but HOLY HELL! Truly one of the most distinct gins I have had with a subtle floral elegance that produced one of the best G&T's I have tasted.
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Re: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Rioja this Fall

#18 Post by Christine Huang » October 13th, 2019, 9:34 pm

Fantastic! Thanks for the lowdown, John!

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